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Draft, Edit, Revise : Repeat
I recently had the lovely misfortune-or good fortune depending on your point of view-to draft, revise, repeat two novels. The first is Silver Hollow, my first book baby. I was very in love with both characters and worlds and words at the time I wrote and rewrote the first two versions. I met with mixed success, but an equal share of flaws and lovely prose. So about a year ago I decided to revise my book. I wanted to turn it into an ongoing series. I learned a lot through writing my other novels in the past five years and felt like I was ready to tackle this.
What began as a revision has turned into something of a wonderful mix of revising old text and total rewrites of scenes. When I had to chunk a scene I loved, I saved it for future books, moved over some dialogue and ideas to the newly written version. I knew we would basically end up where we did the first time, but my goal with this was to make the novel what it had the potential to be five years ago. I needed an update anyway if I planned to follow through with current sequels.
While I’m even more in love with this world and the story, I have had my share of frustrations. Some of my previous scenes were so fluffy and fun but didn’t move the story along at all. Some dialogue was too off-putting for some readers to feel comfortable. While I happened to love books that did what I was attempting to do, I have since learned you have to know your audience. So we find richer mythos in the new Silver Hollow, more rounded characters and a lot more action. I wanted to write this as if I was experiencing it through Amie’s eyes, make it real enough I could believe it’s impossibility.
I’ve read different accounts on whether you should revise your previous novels at all. A lot of people say no, to just leave it alone in the past. But for me, while trying to rebrand and get back into full swing author mode, I wanted more. I didn’t want the new cover Najla made to look like a better book than what you are getting. I was so intent about this book, I made a modus operandi of rules to help me reach my goals.
In my early days, I typically drafted one novel, fine-tuned the other with revisions and had another on track for publication. This year I thought I could attempt that. But trying to write multiple books also meant I was spread a bit thin. Mid-summer I smelled the roses and realized if I wanted to finish one I had to put the others aside.
And that’s how I was able to finally write/revise/pub Tamn and She Walks in Moonlight in October. I returned to Silver Hollow 2018 immediately after the release buzz died down. And of course, I continued to work on the third Wylder Tales, Bound Beauty.
I used Bound Beauty for my NaNoWriMo project, mostly because I have had such a difficult time getting this book off the ground. A little backstory if you’ll humor me:
Last year after publishing Scarred, I began writing Bound Beauty. About midway through the following spring, I realized the beginning I was writing was flawed. I would need a major time jump to make the story work but didn’t want to disconnect my readers by jumping ahead. Each Beauty novel has only covered the span of a few weeks at most, following in sequential order. There’s an immediacy and urgency when you write like that, and it works for the Gothic genre I feel.
Come summer I figured out the problem wasn’t the beginning of Bound Beauty, but the fact I rushed the ending of Scarred. The very beginning of what I thought to be Bound was in fact the end of Scarred. So I switched it over, extending Scarred Beauty and as it turns out, giving my story and characters a more complete arc.
Fast forward to November and I approached Bound not really sure how to begin. I know where this story ends, have known since I finished Craving Beauty the first time. But I wrote several false starts and changed directions several times while trying to figure out Bound. One night I even had a wild flight of inspiration and wrote out an outline of where we could take this story. I was so excited again for the book I wrote chapter upon chapter. It felt right. But then I stumbled again.
I made myself work on Silver Hollow and meanwhile journaled and brainstormed some more about Bound. Sometimes the best thing you can do as an author is to ruminate on your story. Instead of reading before bed, let yourself lay there and turn you mind onto your story. Or write it out with paper and pen. When I started writing stories, I always wrote with paper and ink. I loved the tactile feel of it, the fact I was writing the same way people had been for centuries, just with crappier handwriting. This has worked for me every time I think I’m stuck.
Something Susan Dennard talks about in her articles on drafting is that some days writing means not penning down a single word. Some days you have to soak up the story, take in other books, music or media to find your inspiration. Or sometimes you have to talk with another author or someone who has read and gets your story and where you want to take it.
This year has taught me a lot about marketing and writing my books. I’ve spent more time blogging and sharing my love for books, tried to give back to the community in little ways and made new friends. In hindsight, I would love to say I managed my time wisely and stuck to my goals. But goals like first drafts, like newly revised editions, are ever-changing things.
Often times I feel the frustration old painters once described, how no matter how much they practiced or toiled, they could never achieve the beauty they saw. In their mind’s eye the finished piece wasn’t ever quite finished. So they began a new painting, to strive for better than before. Writing is the same for me. At some point, we have to just begin, we have to let ourselves write into dead ends or fill out scenes we are forced to cut later on. We strive for something greater than perfection, push ourselves harder to pen the story we feel in our hearts and souls.
Don’t give up on your current work in progress, whether it’s a book, fanfic, script, etc. You never know when inspiration will hit, that moment you break through beyond the boundaries of your capabilities to craft something beautiful. Happy writing!
Goals for this week
Finish Silver Hollow P3 and begin P4!
Begin to evaluate writing/publishing journey this past year.